U.S. women's soccer team finds fervent fans in Canada and at home

Tue Jun 9, 2015 10:21pm EDT
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By Daina Beth Solomon and Rod Nickel

(Reuters) - Chip Shop is a popular spot for Brooklyn soccer fans, but the restaurant was nevertheless stunned by the crowd that turned out on Monday night to watch the United States women's team make its 2015 World Cup debut against Australia.

Owner Chris Sell said the FIFA Women's World Cup had "never been that big" in past years. But then he saw his 70-seat British-style pub fill up for the live television broadcast, mostly with cheering women decked out in soccer jerseys.

They were rewarded with a 3-1 win for the Americans playing in a stadium in Winnipeg, Canada, in front of more than 31,000 fans.

"It brought a whole new genre of people in," said Sell. "Everybody was a little bit shocked."

The auspicious start for the U.S. team, ranked second by FIFA behind Germany, could help build support for the American women, much like the men's team experienced reaching the knock-out stages of the World Cup finals in Brazil last year.

U.S. teams have won the Women's World Cup twice, in 1991 and 1999, while the men have never reached a final.

In addition to having a team with potential to win the championship, the United States benefits this year from a convenient tournament location over the border in Canada, and more exposure in both broadcast and social media.

Fox Sports, which will air all 52 Women's World Cup games live, including 16 on the Fox broadcast network, said USA-Australia attracted 3.3 million viewers on Fox Sports 1, more than triple the audience of the U.S. team's opener in 2011.   Continued...

May 30, 2015; Harrison, NJ, USA; Fans cheer as team USA comes out for warmups before a game against the Korea Republic at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports